James Lee Burke, crime novels, gripping stories and absolutely eloquent beautifully crafted writing--he is the Thomas Hardy of crime novels. His main characters are Dave Robicheaux, on-off kinda-rogue-cop in New Orleans/St Iberia Lousiana. These books MADE me visit Louisiana. You HAVE to first read Heaven's Prisoners, his novels follow the story line but you can still pick up if you get one out of line, but I suggest you get on Amazon.com and get them in order of publishing to get the whole history. I think there are about 12 Robicheaux novels now. The absolute best is Through the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead, but again, read them in order.

Second series is focused on Billy Bob Holland, ex-Texas Ranger in the hills outside Austin, TX. Thought I wouldn't like these because I am an Easterner, water-person, non-cowboy-sympathetic, but when I started reading the first one, I got sucked in hook-line-and sinker. Burke's writing is pure poetry.

Then there's Elmore Leonard, legendary crime novelist. 40-some books to his credit. Sometimes formulaic but always gripping. Movies galore from his books--Mr. Majestyk, The Big Bounce, Get Shorty, Stay Cool, on and on. The REAL gems are Cuba Libre (historic novel) and The Hunted (real change of venue but great). GREAT summer reading.

Also, Carl Hiaasen's crime novels, laced with sardonic humor and biting political intent, but truly funny, Stormy Weather, Strip Tease (made into a movie with Burt Reynolds and Demi Moore--GOTTA read the book before you can truly appreciate Burt Reynold's role in this).

And if you are into truly wacko humorous-but-on-the-lunatic-fringe of crime novels, go search out Tim Dorsey's novels some time. Set in Florida.

Oh. and to answer my brother's e-mail. Sorry, Jimmy Buffett's novels are boring.